At about this time exactly 10 years ago was the moment I landed in Amsterdam Schiphol airport to jumpstart my life.
My borderline-comfortable life in Washington D.C. back then was coming to a slow halt. Over time the path I took started looking like a one-way road to lifelong singlehood, and further on through fields of depressing emptiness with no exits in sight. In other words, the long term outlook wasn’t bright, not at all. My career was going nowhere, I had no anchor to tie me down, and had a shallow, meritless existence that produced nothing in the end. I’d considered moving somewhere else for a few years by then but the idea of leaving my comfort zone of 13 years, the physical work involved in moving, and the unattractive options where to relocate were all blocking off any kind of decisiveness. When the opportunity came in 2008 to live in Europe it was like a door had opened out of nowhere, and after selling and donating all the stuff I’d collected over the years, the day came when I went to DCA airport with help from my friend, Ron, and got on the plane to Philadelphia en route to Amsterdam. I plopped into Schiphol with my two large cardboard boxes full of clothes, papers, books, and whatnots – I kid not when I say it’s a miracle customs let me through despite seeing my boxes for luggage, having them go through X-ray machines at risk of finding more than just clothing, and believing my story that I don’t use regular luggage because my previous one, an expensive Delsey, was totally trashed by U.S. customs. I arrived on just a tourist visa and a dream, and as fate would have it, I made it through.
I kept my boarding passes from that flight 10 years ago, and look at it every now and then as a reminder of that sharp, slightly unexpected turning point in my life. On occasion – and I blame all those Border Patrol shows on TV now – I’d have traumatic stress from the idea that I could have been stopped at Schiphol and forcibly put on the next plane back to the States. If the current refugee situation in Europe and all the crisis stories spinning around happened back then, I would surely be writing a different story right now. Despite countless ups and downs this past decade my life turned out to be an interesting adventure in Europe, and I’m thankful it wasn’t a lost opportunity. It was a decade well spent, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.